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Mexican PET recycler working to raise public awareness

By: Jim Johnson

February 20, 2014

ORLANDO, FLA. — When it comes to food grade PET recycling, PETStar SA de CV is clearly a leader in Mexico and in the world.

But the Toluca, Mexico-based recycling company knows it can't do it alone, especially in a country where environmental awareness can be lacking.

"In Mexico, we have very little environmental awareness. You will see bottles dumped in the place that it should not be," said Jaime Camara Creixell, director of global marketing and strategy for PETStar.

"And, of course, that's not the problem of the PET, the bottle companies, it's a problem of information, of lack of environmental awareness and lack of infrastructure," he said recently at The Packaging Conference in Orlando. "So we have to build together and that's part of the shared responsibility that we have."

And that, he said, means people in society, industry and government all must work toward the goal of increasing recycling.

PETStar started in 2009 and expanded in 2011 after it was purchased by a group of seven Coca-Cola bottling companies. The firm began producing 20,000 tons per year of food-grade recycled PET, but bumped that total to 50,000 after the 2011 acquisition. The resin is used to make new recycled-content bottles.

Along the way to expansion, the company also constructed an onsite museum and auditorium to help spread the word about the need for everyone to help with recycling. "Our museum is an invitation for the concept of shared responsibility," Camara said.

Communication, especially with children, is the key to increasing recycling, he said.

.And just like in the United States, the marketing and strategy director said, some adults in Mexico might not listen to other adults when it comes to recycling, but they just might listen to their kids.

"If somebody in Mexico is driving his car, opens the window, dumps a bottle, nobody will tell anything to that guy. But maybe his children sitting beside him (will say something). So the environmental awareness of children is really powerful, so we are working on this educational progress to really make a change," Camara said.

"We are working together in this journey. If we want plastics to succeed, we must recycle. This is a must. So we have to work together. So we have to encourage environmental awareness of the children and teach the parents through the kids," he said.

PETStar receives its recycled PET through its bottle gathering subsidiary, Avangard, which employs 1,100 of its own workers directly and operates eight collection facilities. Avangard also partners with multiple collection partners and helps support 24,000 pickers who scavenge used PET bottles, often at landfills, the company said.

The processing company can reprocess up to 3 billion bottles per year, Camara said.